Committee hears plans for riverfront development

Published 10:41 pm Thursday, January 15, 2009

The master plan for Selma’s Historic Riverfront Park was unveiled Thursday night.

The proposed 12-acre park will stretch from the northeast corner of the Edmund Pettus Bridge to the corner of Water Avenue and Martin Luther King Street.

Landscape architects from Birmingham-based firm Gresham Smith and Partners detailed the plan, answered questions and highlighted phase one of construction.

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Next, the firm will make final drawings of the project and present the drawings to the mayor and city council.

Mayor George Evans said he hopes to break ground in the next two or three months. The mayor thanked local business owners and citizens who attended the meeting.

“It takes input from everybody,” Evans said of the project. “It’s a work in progress, a dream come true.”

Phase one includes a pedestrian entrance on Green Street and 2,600 linear feet of 10-foot wide, concrete sidewalks, with occasional brick banding along the Alabama River. It includes three scenic overlooks and a pedestrian bridge. The Department of Planning and Development has already received a grant to fund phase one through the Alabama Department of Transportation. The river walk is designed as a continuous loop.

“The whole idea of this park is you could spend hours walking with your kids, your spouse,” said landscape architect Chuck Kelly.

Kelly, a Selma native, said when the park is completed, it would bring more business and tourism to Selma’s riverfront.

“Having lived here for a while, this project is personally gratifying,” Kelly said. “When this park becomes a people place, the hope is all the businesses will benefit with more pedestrian traffic by the front doors.”

Dianne Smitherman, owner of The Restaurant on Grumble’s Alley, said the park could open many opportunities for local businesses.

“I think the master plan is beautiful,” she said.

However, Smitherman, along with other people in attendance, had issues with parking access.

The city hopes to remedy these worries by including a parking lot with 50-vehicle capacity adjacent to the park. However, this lot is not included in phase one.

The park will include multiple phases, which will begin as funding is available. Some elements of the park include: an interactive water fountain, a 2,000-seat amphitheatre with additional lawn seating, an historic carousel, a playground, a floating boat dock, an outdoor aquarium, a smaller pavilion, a police precinct, restrooms, a 3,000-foot playground, a butterfly garden, a concession area, a dog park and a farmer’s market.

Kelly said it would be a landmark for Selma.

“When people come into Selma on Highway 80 and come over the Edmund Pettus Bridge, it’ll be the first thing they see,” he said.